Indian priest confesses to sexually abusing girl child


Teramo (Italy): A jailed Indian priest Wednesday confessed to sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl in central Italy after offering her a Santa Claus doll as a gift.

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The priest, identified as David, confessed to offering the girl a doll before placing her hand on his genital area when he visited her home Dec 19 last year, Prosecutor Bruno Auriemma said.

“He gave a full and clear confession,” Auriemma told AKI in a telephone interview. “He said ‘I did it’.”

He made the confession in the Teramo prosecutors’ office in front of Auriemma, his defence lawyer Giovanni Gebbia, and local priest Davide Pagnottella.

“He was really gutted and confused,” Pagnotella said. He said he was there to offer “spiritual support” to the priest who communicated through an English interpreter.

The 40-year-old priest from south India was Tuesday charged with sexual violence in Teramo, 175 km northeast of Rome in the region of Abruzzo.

He was studying at Pontifical Gregorian University and used to spend weekends celebrating mass and carrying out other duties in the Teramo diocese, said Pagnotella.

He allegedly visited the girl at her house while her parents were both away. Auriemma said the girl’s six-year-old sister was in another room at the time.

“He went to the house knowing there were no parents there. Without the parents at home, he temporarily lost control. He took her hand and moved it down from his chest to his genital area before taking it away,” said Pagnotella.

The priest’s lawyer, Giovanni Gebbia, was not available for comment.

The priest was arrested Monday soon after he returned from India after visiting his ailing mother.

He is the first priest to be arrested in Italy since the Vatican published revised guidelines stating that priests suspected of molesting children must be reported to police.

Meanwhile, Babu Karakombil, spokesman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said in New Delhi that the priest should be prosecuted under Italian law.

“We allow (Italy’s) civil law to take its place. We say it should intervene. If someone is guilty, they must face the law. We won’t protect them,” Babu Karakombil said.

The head of the local diocese, Bishop Michele Seccia, also visited him Wednesday.

The priest’s lawyer, Giovanni Gebbia, said Tuesday that the priest was arrested because he “briefly placed the child’s hand on his genital area during a moment of weakness”.